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Griz athletics continue academic streak

Posted at 12:00 PM, May 23, 2018

(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA – Most people won’t begin to evaluate the success of Phase 2 of the Bobby Hauck era at Montana until the first Saturday in September, when the Grizzlies host Northern Iowa at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

But Hauck’s program has already picked up a big offseason victory this spring. In the classroom.

Montana’s 90 football players had a semester GPA of 2.99, helping the department achieve an average cumulative GPA of 3.18, the 26th consecutive semester the Grizzlies have checked in at 3.0 or better.

Hauck’s players gave the football program its best-ever semester, which hearkens back to Phase 1 of the Hauck era, when academic success matched the team’s annual success on the field.

One of the program’s previous top semesters? Autumn 2008. While the Grizzlies were posting a 2.90 in the classroom, they were playing a 16-game schedule, which took them to the national championship game in mid-December, a season that lasted longer than the academic term, without break.

Finals week that semester? It came in the same span of days when Montana was preparing to travel across the country to face James Madison in a national semifinal, a game the Grizzlies would win 35-27.

Hauck’s program collected 109 Academic All-Big Sky Conference accolades from 2003 to 2009, the second-highest total in the league, all while going 47-6 against those opponents.

“If you look back at the number of Academic All-Big Sky guys and the graduation rates and the GPAs the last time around, it was pretty good,” says Hauck.

“I think at one point we were graduating our guys at a higher rate than any other sport in the department, which is unique. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Which means Phase 2, with its record-breaking 2.99 spring semester, is off to a rousing start. But it didn’t happen accidentally. A new level of expectation needed to be established.

That’s why anyone crazy enough to be on the M trail the last week of January, still two full hours before the sun would first break through the eastern horizon, would have seen Montana’s new football coach making his way up to the iconic marker.

Not long after that: some of his players who had been late for class that first week of the semester, who thought they were going it alone. When they arrived at the base of the M, high above Missoula and their home field, they discovered just how earnest their new coach was.

“It was pretty treacherous. A lot of ice and snow, and six in the morning, so pretty chilly. By the time I got back down, word had spread in the locker room that I was up there waiting, so that was good,” says Hauck.

“Those guys were a minute or two late for class was all, but we want them there on time.”

As a department, Montana had a term GPA in the spring of 3.13, with the usual programs putting up the most impressive numbers.

Women’s cross country led the way at 3.6, with men’s tennis (3.58) and women’s tennis (3.54) coming in closely behind.

It was a new coach for the men’s tennis program in 2017-18 but the results remained the same. It’s now 11 straight semesters at 3.28 or better for Kris Nord/Jason Brown’s program, the last four at 3.66, 3.66, 3.57 and 3.58. And the Grizzlies played in the Big Sky championship match both seasons.

The women’s tennis program has had a semester GPA of 3.4 or better eight of the last nine semesters.

The four-year-old softball program had its best semester on record at 3.46, and Nord’s new program, women’s golf, had a term GPA of 3.42.

Despite an upheaval in its coaching staff, the soccer program had another strong academic showing, finishing at 3.31, its 10th straight term at 3.3 or better.

Women’s track and field came in at 3.23, men’s cross country at 3.20.